The 2019 VIWFF Screenplay Competition Announces Quarterfinalists

The VIWFF Screenplay Competition is committed to celebrating and recognizing female screenwriters, in pursuit of equal participation in writing for screen-based media. Ten Official Selections will be chosen to receive full accreditation to VIWFF 2019.

We are happy to announce this year’s quarter-finalists:

Georgia Abrahams – Vahana
Amani AbuRamadan – The Package
Andrea Bang – Mrs. Nobody
Nancy Bartley – The Boy Who Shot the Sheriff
Jackie Bateman – Salome Magic
A. J. Bermudez – The Face of the Earth
Arla Bowers – White Coyote
Jessica Bradford – Finn’s Sketchy Day
Giovanna Chesler – Sweetheart Ranch
Nancy Clark – Dark Side Of The Street
Sam Coyle – White River
Tonia Davidson – Word Over Word
Sarah Davison – (Dis) Honoured
Louise Deschamps – The Forgotten Patron
Nadia Desyatnikova – Selva
Mary Egan – Have You Seen Me?
Jeffrey Field & Michelle Davidson – No Man’s Land
Robin Fusco – Happy Endings Senior Living
Tanya Gust – Little Choice
Faye Jackson – The Fisherwoman and the Sea
Ulla Laidlaw – Genevieve
Jillian Lauren & Silas Howard – The Great Pretenders
Samantha Loney – Married to Murder
Helen Marsh – Alice Through the Microscope
Lauren Martin – Grow No Moss
Sheona McDonald – Back by Midnight
Ashley Ohana – Deception Pass
Katterina Powers – A Better Place
Miriam Rahimi-Cholensky – Ari vs. Raj
Miriam Rahimi-Cholensky – China White
Elise Raye & Natalie Mussell – Family Feast
Satu Runa – Soucouyant
Angela Ryan – Mud Swimmers
Jennifer Nicole Stang – Blackwood Falls
Suzy Stein – Dragging the Mark
Jes Sugrue – The Good, the Bad and the Irish
Donna Wheeler – Natalie Rising
Robyn Winslow – Aftereffect
Cate Wood Hunter – Family Roots
Cate Wood Hunter – The Transmogrification of St. Bunnycrisp
Tiffany Zehnal – Bee Sting

Semifinalists will be announced on January 21, 2019, and the top ten Official Selections will be chosen from among the Semifinalists. Official Selections to be announced on January 31, 2019. The finalist will be presented with a cash prize at the Festival Awards Ceremony on March 10, 2019.

A very special thank you to the International Screenwriters Association (ISA) for their sponsorship, and to our script readers for many hours of thoughtful reading.

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Beyond the Dark Side with Gada Jane

Genre film has, for a long time, been a mode of storytelling perfect for communicating both the personal and the social. A horror film and a western can both be analyzed in terms of cultural milieu, or they can be seen as indicative of a filmmaker’s mood—or some combination of both. Thus, genre film is a valuable tool for understanding human experience, whether or not you enjoy gore, ghosts, or fantastic creatures. Each genre has its own complex set of images, character-types, styles, and techniques which, when used skillfully, pay clever homage to earlier films and push the boundaries of what film can say or do to an audience in the future. Genre films are an integral part of the larger cinematic conversation, whether they speak in the language of sci-fi, thriller, fantasy, western, or horror.

Thus, it is important to keep the door open to new and emerging genre filmmakers. In doing so, the creative conversation maintains its richness and its innovative streak. The From Our Dark Side Incubator Program is designed to prop open the door and let fresh ideas in. As a program meant especially for the development of women’s genre projects, it provides space for “the rebirth of genre” as a diverse medium. To quote the program’s webpage: “From Our Dark Side sees limitless possibilities in genre for women storytellers [and is] designed to provide [filmmakers] with a better understanding of the market, the fans, and the kinds of stories that will connect and kick some genre ass.”

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Gada Jane

Testifying to the success of the program is former participant Gada Jane, a filmmaker and new-media creator from Kitchener, Ontario, who took part in 2016. She found out about the program through a friend on Facebook, and was soon in Vancouver, BC amongst a group of talented and enthusiastic filmmakers and storytellers, all with a passion for genre. She then had the opportunity to network, collaborate, and build lasting professional and creative relationships, both during the 2016 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival and afterwards. Most notably, the program participants travelled to Montréal that year, where the Frontières Co-Production Market took place as part of the city’s Fantasia International Film Festival. While there, Jane and fellow From Our Dark Side participants further connected with professionals in the genre community. When asked about experience, Jane highlighted its value as a networking platform: “Going to Frontières was a big thing for me, because I’ve kept in touch with a lot of the people who I met that first year. Even now, I’m in [Tallinn, Estonia], and I’m supposed to meet someone who I met at Frontières, to talk about various projects, and we might actually do some work together soon. That [connection is] coming directly out of Frontières, and From Our Dark Side.”

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Gada Jane pitching thier web series at Storytek demo day. Photo by Laura Oks (@photosbylauraoks)

Not only did the experience strengthen Jane’s professional connections, it changed the way she thought about networking as a process of collaboration. In her words, “people often think [they] should network because it’s good to network and I should find the person who can do this thing for me, but I feel like what networking actually enables you to do is find the people [who] are aligned with what you want to do [and] also help you understand how to shape what you want to do so it works with the industry… you have to find the points of intersection.” Jane says she uses these learned skills all the time, and in various fields of work. She works in new media research at the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute, and told me about how useful her knowledge of the film festival environment has been within the scope of her career. In fact, her department sent her to the Cannes Film Festival, two years in a row, in order to connect with new partners and extend her network. Her creative projects have directly benefitted from her From Our Dark Side experience as well; she was asked to take her latest project, a web series titled “La Boheme,” to an accelerator program in Estonia. Making connections, she says, “is a much more personal process… it’s about finding teams that I want to work with in the long term, and developing relationships.”

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Gada Jane and her business partner Victoria Buchy at Storytek in Tallinn

When asked to impart any advice to new From Our Dark Side program members, Jane had this to say: “It’s really valuable to use to program to figure out what you actually want to do. You get access to all these different people and conversations, [but] that becomes most useful when you can check it against what you actually care about, what you actually want to accomplish. I think we often get caught up focusing on one side or the other—[either] shutting out the outside, or absorbing it and adjusting until you lose track of why you started in the first place. I think if you can constantly be checking between the two, you’re going to find yourself in a much stronger position.”

-Written by Sarah Bakke

To check out Gada Jane on Instagram, click here. To find out more about her web series and other creative endeavours, go to: @thevelveticons or www.gadajane.com

WIFTV presented From Our Dark Side genre concept contest, in partnership with Creative BC, Super Channel, Telefilm Canada and Telus. For more information on From Our Dark Side, click here

Sarah Bakke interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager.

 

From Idea to Screenplay, How Tricksters & Writers Helped Jessie Anthony’s Upcoming Feature Film, “Brother I Cry”

Jessie Anthony, a Proud Haudenosaunee woman from the Onondaga nation and member of Beaver Clan from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in Ontario, participated in the Tricksters and Writers Program under unique circumstances—she already had a project underway, funding secured, and deadlines to meet. Though the program is only in its first iteration, and thus is still in stages of development for both participants and organizers, Anthony knew that you only get out what you put in; her intention was to take the structure of the Tricksters and Writers program and apply it directly to her process of brainstorming, story editing, and character development.

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“I took advantage of being in a room full of Indigenous women, sharing my story, and hearing other stories,” Anthony says. “That’s the best way to learn—observation. I felt like I was held accountable for my progress and my process.”

Her latest project, titled Brother, I Cry, tells of two siblings connected by strong spiritual ties, who are both experiencing the inter-generational trauma of residential schools. “It’s commenting on family dynamics post-residential school, and how we enable our addicts,” Anthony explains. Production on Brother, I Cry just recently wrapped, and Anthony credits her experience in the program as a positive influence during the earlier stages of filmmaking. “One of my biggest [goals] was learning how to let go of the characters; how to not micromanage the characters and [instead] just write them and let them live,” she says. Being in a room with Indigenous women of various backgrounds and experience levels, as well as collaborating with other industry professionals, helped Anthony reach this goal. “I felt supported while I was brainstorming and organizing those thoughts,” she further explains. “To write a first draft and feel the encouragement and support of people who understood the journey [is] amazing!”

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Understanding the journey, in this case, means not only witnessing individual growth within the Tricksters and Writers program itself but also knowing what it means to have an Indigenous story to tell. The women involved in the program all identify as Indigenous but come from a multitude of territories, backgrounds, and experiences. “Everybody has a different story, but their bloodline is connected,” Anthony says. She describes a sense of inimitable community and sisterhood within her group of fellow screenwriters and cites their shared Indigeneity as a major source of this connection. “We hold space for the introduction of each individual woman, where they come from, who their family is, but we don’t have to explain reasons or histories,” she states. “There’s already this knowing. I think that’s what really sets [the program] apart, and we take care of each other.” Folks who don’t identify as Indigenous may take for granted the assumption that when they walk into a room and tell their story, others will have a framework of knowledge that helps them understand exactly what the story’s meaning and purpose is. For Indigenous writers, that isn’t always the case. Details of life outside the settler experience are inextricable from the stories told by Indigenous filmmakers, and so working with people who can skip over the minutiae of cultural explanation and jump straight into a richer understanding of a story’s nuance and intent is exceptionally important. A multitude of experience exists within the definitions of Indigeneity, but in the case of the Tricksters and Writers program, this kind of cultural acumen and insight is shared amongst the participants.

“When you move away from your community—as most people who live here have done, especially Indigenous people—you look for that type of community; [in this case] Indigenous female writers who are on the same wavelength for creativity and inspiration, or who are in the same headspace for storytelling. When you step into a space like that, you don’t have to explain yourself. You can just be, and everybody understands the storytelling [style] and the story structure, so we don’ have to spend time on that. We get to just jump right into the work,” Anthony says when asked what the special value of a specifically woman-led Indigenous screenwriting program is. “You really find your community and your support, and [now] I can say, I know where there are 13 other female Indigenous filmmakers who will read my story and will understand the foundation of it.”

WIFTV is launching a Tricksters and Writers Program on Vancouver Island North and is currently accepting applications until Dec 5, 2018. For program info and application, details click here

Tricksters and Writers has been possible through the generous donation from Matrix Production Services as well as support from TELUS, CMPA-BC, Vancity Credit Union and the BC Arts Council. More information on the Tricksters and Writers program can be found here.

To learn more about Jessie Anthony’s filmmaking practice and future projects, go here.

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WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Film Market Preparation Mentorship Awarded to Jen Walden

Jennifer Walden has been awarded the WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Film Market Preparation Mentorship for her project Elijah and the Rock Creature. Jennifer Walden is a Yellowknife filmmaker and noted visual artist whose distinctive style explores Canadian and Northern life through people, wildlife and topography. Her unique eye for aesthetic detail and captivating storylines has resulted in three award-winning short films. Jennifer’s first short, Painted Girl, found success as one of nine national finalists in the CBC’s Short Film Face Off competition and her first feature Elijah and the Rock Creature has been developed from a script that was chosen for the IndieCan 20K contest. Elijah and the Rock Creature was shot entirely on location in the Northwest Territories with a northern cast and crew. The film opened the Yellowknife International Film Festival in September 2018 and will be screening at the 2018 Whistler Film Festival.

Upon learning of the news, Jen expressed, “I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in this mentorship. I am passionate about filmmaking, and I’m also passionate about learning. The chance to have one on one sessions with a seasoned professional is a dream come true. With my first feature film screening at this year’s festival, I’m so motivated to keep my career moving forward. I think this mentorship will be the perfect opportunity to help me do that.”

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Jen Walden – 2018 WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Market Preparation Mentee

Jen will receive industry immersion at the Whistler Film Festival, as well as personalized coaching sessions with an experienced producer. This year’s mentor is producer and creative partner at Sepia Films, Tina Pehme. For the last two decades, Tina has developed projects and relationships internationally through her extensive work on US, Canadian and International co-productions. Her background in production allows her to bring a hands-on knowledge of physical production as well as the ability to anticipate production needs in a variety of budget ranges and co-production scenarios. As a partner in Sepia Films, Tina has developed, consulted and produced for both film and television in Canada, the US, India, the United Kingdom, China, South Africa, Ireland, Spain and Argentina.

Special thanks to the WIFTV Whistler Film Festival Mentorship jury which consisted of Christian Bruyere, Producer, Mystic Films Ltd; Nick Kendall, Coordinator and Documentary Instructor, MOPA at Capilano University; Eileen Hoeter, Line Producer and former WiFTI International President; and Dusty Kelly, Secretary & Business Agent Vancouver Musician’s Association and Chair of the selection committee and member of the WIFTV board.

Visit www.womeninfilm.ca  to find out more about WIFTV’s mentorship opportunities!

Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Study Shows Inequality in Film Criticism

Written by Sarah Bakke

There has been much recent discussion of diversity, respect, and representation in the film industry (and in entertainment industries beyond). Over the last handful of years, we have seen necessary change begin to happen, even if only in the public’s consciousness, and we as a collective society have started having a larger conversation about the insidious results that the lack of diversity, respect, and representation in the industry can reap. The world stage has been full of public figures on display for their wrong-doings and their lacklustre attempts at rectifying the damage. And certainly, it is important that the failings of these figures are not kept in darkness anymore; the publicity of the world stage is thus working in favour with the under-represented and the marginalized. We must remain vigilant, however, to ensure that once the publicity dies down, work towards change continues. Thankfully, there are a lot of hard-working people and organizations devoted to changing the film industry for the better.

One such organization, in the US context, is the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, founded and directed by Professor Stacy L. Smith. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s mission is “to foster inclusion and give a voice to disenfranchised or marginalized groups” by compiling and organizing data and theory-based research regarding the entertainment industry’s status quo. Most recently, the Initiative focused on the film critic community; who writes film reviews, and what does this demographic indicate about film criticism and its influence, at large? Professor Smith and associates (in partnership with TIME’S UP Entertainment) put together a comprehensive study (the second of it’s kind, focusing on film criticism’s impact on gender and racial representation/parity) based on 300 film reviews written by Rotten Tomatoes critics over the course of three years, in order to find out exactly what the stats say about gender and race/ethnicity inequality amongst film critics. The results are disheartening, if not unsurprising.

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Infographic from “Critic’s Choice 2: Gender and Race/Ethnicity of Film Reviewers Across 300 Top Films from 2015-2017” — Marc Choueiti, Dr. Stacy L. Smith, & Dr. Katherine Pieper.

According to the study, titled “Critic’s Choice II,” 48.3% of the total 300 films examined did not feature a review written by a woman of colour. Similarly, 45.4% of the 108 films driven by female leads and 35.1% of the 57 films led by under-represented folks onscreen also did not feature a review written by a woman of colour. In other words, an astounding number of top-grossing movies appearing on Rotten Tomatoes have never been reviewed by anyone other than white men. The study breaks these numbers down even further, stating: “only 21.3% of the 59,751 reviews evaluated were written by female critics, with 78.7% crafted by male critics… Critics from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds composed 16.8% of these reviews compared with 83.2% by white critics… White male critics wrote substantially more reviews (65.6%) than their white female (17.6%) or underrepresented male (13.1%) peers. Underrepresented female critics only wrote 3.7% of reviews included in the sample. Across the three years studied, there was no change over time in the representation of critics.”

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Infographic from “Critic’s Choice 2: Gender and Race/Ethnicity of Film Reviewers Across 300 Top Films from 2015-2017” — Marc Choueiti, Dr. Stacy L. Smith, & Dr. Katherine Pieper.

This kind of gendered and racial imbalance is evidence of an obvious problem within the film criticism community which, predictably, is in line with problems of representation and gender/racial parity in the movie business at large. Not to mention, it very likely has systemic influence over the success and/or failure of marginalized filmmaking as a whole. Who knows which films have been glossed over, misunderstood, or forgotten completely because their diversity is not reflected in the pool of critical response? Moreover, what valuable opinions, criticisms, and insights have been lost in the sea of white, male voices? Justin Chang of the L.A. Times writes, “We need more female critics and critics of colour because the diversification of any talent pool is a worthy and important end in its own right. The critical discourse on cinema will naturally be balanced, complicated and enriched in the process, but in ways that are and should be impossible to prescribe or predict.”

Studies like the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s “Critic’s Choice II” help immensely by providing concrete, research-based evidence that other professionals can point to when crafting industry reform from the ground up. These kinds of numbers can, and should, change policy and bring about visible change—especially when change is needed in corners of the film world less widely considered. Though we as a collective society tend to focus our attention on the wrongs of those in the spotlight, this kind of behind-the-scenes work is what truly makes a foundational difference. Organizations like the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and TIME’S UP Entertainment are dedicated to turning that spotlight onto the hidden ills of the entertainment industry, ignoring dramatics in favour of structural transformation.

Famed film critic Pauline Kael once said that “film criticism is exciting just because there is no formula to apply… you must use everything you are and everything you know.” It would thus be fair to say that film criticism as a profession must strive to be as non-formulaic as possible. Out with homogenous points of view; out with one-sided responses. There exists a multiplicity of critics using everything they are and everything they know in order to bring a more nuanced, multi-faceted, and expansive view of film as an art form. Without their expressions and experiences, the true value of film criticism is skewed, and we risk further loss of films which may be just outside the margins of white, male opinion.

Sarah Bakke currently interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager.

Career Boost for Emerging Vancouver Production Manager, Tini Wider

We are pleased to announce that Tini Wider has been selected as this year’s recipient of the WIFT-V William F. White Production Management Mentorship Program!

After graduating from film school in Vienna, Austria, Tini worked as a Location Manager, Production Manager and Producer on various projects. Starting off with short films and gaining more experience with TV Movies and Commercials, Tini currently works as an Animation Line Producer in Vancouver.

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Tini Wider

“Tini has a great foundation of experience. She is a strong candidate for the program,” said the jury which consisted of Barbara Schoemaker, Training Coordinator & Assistant Business Agent at DGC-BC; Tom Adair, Executive Director at BC Council of Film Unions; Andrea Manchur, Education & Training Coordinator at William F. White International Inc; and Dusty Kelly, Secretary & Business Agent Vancouver Musician’s Association and Chair of the selection committee and member of the WIFTV board.

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Kim Steer

Tini will receive a 3-Day hands-on placement at William F. White International in Vancouver. Tini will also receive instructional sessions with experienced production manager, Kim Steer. WIFTV is excited to have a PM of this caliber on board.  Kim grew out of a background of art and production design to become a producer of Canadian independent films. She learned how to balance the needs of the creative forces with the realities of day-to-day production to become a respected line producer/production manager. She completed all six seasons of the Showtime series “The L Word” and recently guided the Netflix production of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” as their Production Supervisor. Read the full press release here.

Visit www.womeninfilm.ca for more detail on Women in Film and Television Vancouver’s programming and mentorship opportunities!

Indigenous Storytelling and Screenwriting Seminar for the Thompson-Nicola District

We are excited to announce two upcoming Indigenous Storytelling and Screenwriting Seminars to take place in Kamloops on October 27th and Enderby on October 28th.

In an effort to increase the participation of Indigenous women in the film industry, WIFT-V launched, in August 2017, a Vancouver program called Tricksters and Writers. The successful program offered master classes to 13 women, and further developed the screenplays of six writers through story editing sessions and actor table read workshops.

We are now seeking to design and implement a similar program for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District.  In order to develop a program that meets the needs of Indigenous women in this community, WIFT-V is inviting Indigenous women with an interest in screenwriting to one of two seminars: October 27th at Thompson River University in Kamloops and October 28th at the Splatisn Community Centre in Enderby. The seminars will be led by Doreen Manual and Petie Chalifoux and will include conversations around storytelling and cultural authenticity as well as a film screening.

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From Left to right: Petie Chalifoux & Doreen Manuel

WIFT-V is excited to expand the program into the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and is grateful for the support of TELUS STORYHIVE and The Thompson Nicola Film Commission, who have made this possible. Read the full press release here.

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From Our Dark Side Winner, Sandi Gisbert, Shares Her 3 Tips for attending the Frontières Film Market

Attending the Frontières Co-Production Market is the high point of the From Our Dark Side program. You get to pitch your project, meet cool filmmakers and industry professionals from all over the world, and if you’re lucky you’ll even catch some movies. If Frontières will be your first market, here are some tips on how to make the most the experience.

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Sandi Gisbert Pitching “Opal” at the Created By Women Pitches at #Frontières2018

Before you go: Do your research. Review the program guide and rank your meetings. Everyone attending is listed and you can learn a lot about who they are, what they do and what kind of projects they’re interested in. If they list a website, check that out too. You’ll get something from every meeting, but you’ll get the most interest from companies that are well suited to your project.

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At the market: Pick a hotel close to the venue. The Market runs from 9am to 5pm and you know you’ll be going to the nightly cocktail parties! They are a must: tasty snacks, cold drinks and an opportunity to network in a more relaxed atmosphere. By the end of the evening, you’ll be exhausted so you don’t want to have to commute to a hotel. If you can’t afford the sponsor hotel, try Airbnb. I stayed with two other writers in a little condo a few blocks from the venue and it was a blast! It was like a writer’s sorority. It gave us time to debrief about that day’s meetings and prep for our next ones over cheap noodles at the pho place next door. If you do go Airbnb just make sure there’s AC. Montreal in July is HOT.

After the market: Follow up with everyone you met. Send them an email. Thank them for their time. Remind them of who you are and how cool your project is. But don’t fire off those emails the moment you get home; wait a few days. Everyone will need some time to decompress and catch up on their business affairs. Including you!

Sandi Gisbert

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Submissions for the 5th season of From Our Dark Side are open until October 31st, 2018. Click here for more information on the program, for application guidelines, and to check out the project one sheets of the past winners. To stay up to date on all things Dark Side follow us on Facebook and Twitter